BASF creates chemistry for a sustainable future. In line with this corporate purpose, approximately 122,000 employees contribute to the success of customers in nearly all sectors and almost every country in the world. Its highly skilled customer service teams are the customers’ key contacts for order progression, building lasting customer relationships for the BASF group.
As a thought leader for digital transformation in the chemical industry, BASF is in the process of transforming its business models and processes to become an Intelligent Enterprise. The company focuses on digital technologies and enhanced analytics capabilities to improve connectivity between BASF, its customers and suppliers, creating value along the entire customer engagement lifecycle. As a trusted innovation partner, SAP helps to build BASF’s digital future and plays a major role in the related Next Generation Business Architecture initiative.
Ensuring timely delivery and customer satisfaction in a highly distributed environment
Excellent customer service is a key success factor for every company. However, widely distributed production sites, operations and procurement processes in large organizations can turn customer service operations into a complex endeavor.
BASF Customer Service Officers (CSOs) in various countries in region EMEA had to gather data using several reports and spreadsheets to consolidate order and customer information. This distributed work environment made it difficult to work effectively: Providing timely information about order and delivery status or anticipating delays often required time-consuming research.
This approach was not only error-prone, it also increased the CSOs’ workload and put a lot of pressure on the individual employee. BASF needed an intelligently automated, data-driven solution to create transparency and empower CSOs with the necessary information to focus on their strategic task: Delivering outstanding customer service.
Technologies like SAP Cloud Platform and SAP HANA offer the level of transparency, flexibility, and speed needed in such a complex environment, but waiting for the planned migration to SAP S/4 HANA was not an option. The customer service team needed a short-term solution!
A prototype designed by end users for end users
So BASF turned to the SAP AppHaus team to help identify the right approach for improving customer service processes.
BASF and SAP AppHaus have a long-standing relationship. The SAP AppHaus team has been an integral part of BASF’s transformation process, and we have completed many successful projects together. This time, we were especially thrilled to be part of a project that was such a close collaboration between business and IT.– Tobias Gollwitzer, SAP AppHaus Customer Design Engagement Lead
BASF´s Customer Service Officers entered uncharted territory when the SAP AppHaus team introduced them to Design Thinking, but quickly got the hang of it. Over the course of a workshop and several development iterations, SAP AppHaus and SAP Digital Business Services delivered a clickable prototype for a Customer Service Cockpit that helps CSOs monitor customer orders and prioritize the actions needed to ensure order progression.
We wanted to involve our CSOs, the end users, right from the start to get their input and feedback. The project quickly shifted from a solution that was first and foremost intended to make our customers happy to a solution that also makes work effective and less stressful for our Customer Service Officers.– Claire Braun, Model Manager for the BASF Customer Service Region EMEA
The prototype helped visualize the proposed solution right from the start and fine-tune it to reflect business requirements. It also helped to gain a better understanding of all different process variants in use and to streamline the processes accordingly.
We used the combined approach of design thinking and agile development to ensure success. After each development cycle, we asked for feedback and made sure that all stakeholders were involved in the decisions that affected them directly.– Matthias Wagenbreth, IT project manager at BASF's Customer Service EMEA project
As a final result, SAP created a comprehensive custom sales order management and monitoring solution for BASF, connecting their on-premise ERP system in a sidecar scenario to an SAP HANA database. SAP HANA manages BASF’s customer and sales order data in a single, extremely powerful in-memory platform and is capable of handling large data volumes in real-time. It evaluates in real time whether the order can be delivered as promised and alerts the CSOs accordingly. Customer Service Cockpit, based on SAP Fiori, provides all relevant information on a single screen, including credit management information that wasn’t available before.
The SAP HANA sidecar approach makes it possible to process huge data volumes and complex data structures without causing performance issues. As the sidecar is not tied to fixed release cycles, it also offers a high flexibility when it comes to implementing new features.
Meet Customer Service Officer Alex
The human-centered innovation approach also produced another surprising result: Alex was born.
Using first-hand insights of the CSOs proved to be so successful that the project team decided to use Alex, a fictitious character developed during Design Thinking, for its rollout and training activities.
Like her fellow CSOs, Alex is on a learning curve and talks about the new cockpit. In her blog she shares her experiences, explains how the cockpit helps her with specific tasks, and what she struggles with. Alex even has her own email address that the CSOs can use to send feedback or give comments – an informative, empathic, and entertaining way to get the CSOs up to speed and encourage them to make full use of their new cockpit.
Best in Class Customer Service
For the approximately 1,250 CSOs in the EMEA region, the introduction of the Customer Service Cockpit is a milestone for efficient and proactive customer management. A rollout out to other regions is planned for 2019.
The new cockpit makes it easy to follow the order-to-cash flow and empowers CSOs to make more informed, proactive decisions. It enables them to concentrate on critical tasks and customer communication. The Customer Service Cockpit is part of BASF’s holistic approach to improve customer service. In addition, a “BEST in Class CSO” training has been introduced to help CSOs deal with difficult customer situations, and an automated customer service satisfaction survey, PULSE, is already underway.
The Customer Service Cockpit based on SAP HANA technology brings BASF closer to its goal of becoming an Intelligent Enterprise: It delivers tangible, sustainable benefits for the organization and prepares the path for future technologies.